It’s never just you…

“Almost always, great new ideas don’t emerge from within a single person or function, but at the intersection of functions or people that have never met before.”

Clayton M. Christensen

In order to create something new you must have a mind that is open to concepts, connections and ideas which don’t currently exist. In order to make this happen one must be ready, willing, and able to be wrong.

The people that already “know” all the answers will be limited because they aren’t willing to truly hear what others have to say or think about whatever topic is at hand. Ego clouds the judgement and creates walls and barriers to learning and growth. Ego shuts down the contributions of others and limits creativity. Ego disrupts great thinking because it puts all the emphasis on “who is right,” versus “what is right.”

True genius lies in a deep desire to never be the smartest person in the room.

Real innovation happens when people with different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives align to solve a common problem.

True genius is the ability to get the right people in the room and aligned towards answering the right questions…

Impact = The relentless pursuit of simplicity…

“Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.”

John Maeda

There are so many ways to interpret this quote, so many thoughts that come to mind as to how it can be applied to almost every aspect of life. As I meditate on what it means for me this morning I can see a sheet a paper with two columns on the page.

The top of the page is a blank with one word, “Purpose?” and at the bottom there is space to write with “Action Today?”

The header for the left column is “Remove Friction” and the right is “Add Value!”

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here is what I can see so vividly in my mind.

Simple. Clean. Underwhelming at first glance, yet powerful when applied and acted upon.

So much of our lives are spent adding more “stuff” when what we should really be doing is stripping away everything that adds friction and gets in the way of achieving our purpose.

To maximize impact, be relentless in your search to find ways to remove friction and add value…

If you don’t, who will?

“If you think taking care of yourself is selfish, change your mind. If you don’t, you’re simply ducking your responsibilities.”

Ann Richards

What does “self care” mean to you? Do you see this solely through the lens of fitness and working out? That can be an easy definition, but there is so much more encompassed by this phrase. Some definitions of self care include the terms, “mental, emotional, & physical health” and while I like what those words convey it can be a little clinical for my tastes. I prefer to use “spirit, mind, body” and evaluate my health with these questions.

Spirit – Am I living a life attuned to a purpose greater than myself? Have I taken much needed and necesary time alone to seek alignment and discern deeper meaning and purpose?

Mind – Have I actively and intentionally challenged my mind in some way today? Am I regularly, and with great intent, choosing to learn something new and push my cognitive limits beyond what I might otherwise think is possible?

Body – Is my physical health a priority in my day? Am I making smart choices that will pay dividends years from now or am I choosing to sacrifice long-term health for near term pleasures?

The key here is to realize, and believe, that by prioritizing your own health in these segments of your life you are enabling your best self. When you do you are creating a gift for those whom you love the most. If you can’t take the the time to be your best for those you love, by default you are choosing to give them a watered down version of yourself.

You have a responsibility to be more than a pale representation of the person you could be. You have a responsibility to be the entirety of the person that you were made to me. In order to make this happen, you have to take care of yourself. If you don’t, who will?

Think. Plan. Act.

“Who exactly do you want to be? What kind of person do you want to be? What are your personal ideals? Whom do you admire? What are their special traits that you would make your own? It’s time to stop being vague. If you wish to be an extraordinary person, if you wish to become wise, then you should explicitly identify the kind of person you aspire to become. If you have a daybook, write down who you’re trying to be, so that you can refer to this self-determination. Precisely describe the demeanor you want to adopt so that you may preserve it when you are by yourself or with other people.”

Epictetus

Epictetus lived almost 2,000 years ago, yet this advice is just as relevant today as in the time it was written. In this one paragraph there is an incredible amount of wisdom that can and should be used as a guide for life.

What is intriguing to me is how few people do any type of exercise like this. In my conversations with friends, family and the people I interact with very few have a written plan for their lives. Itis the exception, not the rule, to meet someone who has invested the time and energy into defining their own future and creating the necessary actions to enable their plans.

Getting started can be overwhelming but from where I sit there are three key steps one must take to activate this wisdom in your own life.

First, simply answer the questions. Take the time to write out very specific and detailed answers.

Second, and I’ll bet this is where a significant amount of people fall short, is to create an action plan that enables you to bring the answers you have create to life.

Third, and this is where success or failure is defined, execute your plan. The investment of time and energy into the first two steps is wasted if you don’t do anything with the work.

Now that all sounds easy and simple, yet it is hard work to complete, and complete well. Personally I know I need to revisit my plan and make some changes to ensure that I am on track to become the person God created me to be.

If you want a good book with a great template for a planning exercise I highly recommend “Living Forward” by Dan Harkavy and Michael Hyatt. It can be a life changing experience.

Act and believe…

“Confidence sells – people believe in those who believe in themselves. No one wants to be stuck in a room with other people who feel like they don’t deserve to be there. Stop wondering if you’re good enough. Know you are and start acting like it.”

Simon Black

Sometimes you have to act, even when you don’t feel like it.

Sometimes you have to take that first step, even if you doubt yourself.

Sometimes confidence is a result of doing the very thing you don’t know if you can do, and then being amazed by the results.

When in doubt, take action. Self confidence is born from action. Start acting like you believe and everyone else will too…

Do you make your decisions based on fear or the future?

 “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”

John Wooden

Do you choose to live a life based on risk minimization or risk management?

While initially there might not appear to be a lot of difference in these perspectives I firmly believe they are opposite sides of a continuum.

Risk minimization is a decision framework based on fear, avoiding something potentially harmful or damaging. Risk management is a decision path that is future focused, where you are intentionally seeking a path forward with the cognitive understanding that something might not happen as you exactly expect. Yet you know you will be equipped to deal with whatever happens because you are willing to think about it now and you aren’t willing to let it stop you or slow you down.

Risk Minimization: A fear-based approach to decision making and action that seeks to minimize any and all risks. The fear of mistakes, and the consequences of those mistakes, will be a driver of your actions, or a lack of action. A risk minimization attitude says “what are all the things that could possibly go wrong, and how do I avoid them?”

Risk Management: A future-based approach to life and decision making that prioritizes action and doing. You choose to make decisions with a clear understanding that not everything will go according to plan. However, with sufficient planning and an appetite for healthy risk, obstacles can and will be overcome. A risk management thinking style says, “what is the worst possible outcome of this decision or action, and how do I prepare for it?”

If you want to live life as a doer, a person that takes action and gets things done, then you must embrace a future-based approach to decision making and action. Risks simply need to be understood and managed, not avoided. Mistakes will happen and should happen. Not everything will go according to plan.

A mistake is nothing more than an opportunity to make a different decision based on better information than you had when you made your last decision. If you aren’t making mistakes then you aren’t trying hard enough and you aren’t creating opportunities for learning and growth. After all, what is the worst that can happen?

Commit to begin…

“Determine that a thing can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way.”

Abraham Lincoln

Defeat first happens in the mind. How often do we give up on things before we have even put forth the necessary effort?

I have found the first hurdle, the one of starting something new and unknown, is often the hardest and highest one. Once you have made it over, under, around or through that barrier, then the power of momentum kicks in and the next one is a little easier.

Whatever is is you want to do first commit to begin. Trust that even though everything might not work work out the way you hope and dream, you will be better and richer because of the experiences you gain. The first step is the most important one so lean in and go.

You will always regret the opportunities you didn’t seize…

Why wait for tomorrow?

“The most satisfying thing in life is to have been able to give a large part of one’s self to others.”

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

When life is over, and you have breathed your last breath on this earth, what will matter more, how much you managed to get, or how much you gave away? The things you collected or the lives you touched?

While this sounds morbid we all have to accept the fact that life will end one day for each of us. We don’t know when, where or how, yet we know an ending will come. Why should we wait until the end to start giving back? Why put off making a difference in the lives of others to some day in the future that might not come?

Hopefully all of us are many decades away from the end of our time here on this earth. Think how much of a difference we could each make in the world if we just gave a large part of ourselves away to others every single day.

What can you start doing today? How are you going to give of yourself to help someone else?

Give it away…

“Satisfied needs do not motivate. It’s only the unsatisfied need that motivates. Next to physical survival, the greatest need of human beings is psychological survival—to be understood, affirmed, validated, and appreciated.”

Stephen Covey

What is enough? In many ways, okay most ways, we live in the greatest period of human history. For the majority of the world physical survival isn’t the challenge that needs to be solved. Yet, the greatest needs of human beings, as defined above, seems to be a more difficult challenge than ever. We strive to get more validation, affirmation, appreciation for ourselves, but do the things we seek truly last?

How much of our lives do we waste seeking to be satisfied by the things the world says are important, but give no real and lasting comfort? Think back to this day one year ago. What was your single greatest worry and fear? How were you spending your precious energy? Do you even remember?

What if, instead of desperately seeking our own satisfaction, we could strive to spend some of our energy fulfilling the unsatisfied needs of others? If we could invest our time, creativity and passion INTO another person and fill their greatest needs to be understood, affirmed, validated, and appreciated don’t you think that would have a much more lasting impact?

Today, don’t allow yourself to be a slave to the calling of self, take a moment to be intentional and give part of yourself away to another human being, with the intention to fill their greatest needs. Think of how different your world, and theirs, would be if this was part of your intentional daily practice. What might the world look like one year from today if we all did this…

How do you become superior?

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

Ernest Hemingway

The minute you believe that you are better than someone else you have lost the essence of our shared humanity; you are buying into the lie that the world revolves around self and our reason for existence is simply to serve our own egos and desires.

Nothing could be further from the truth. We aren’t here on this earth to build monuments to ourselves. The pale accomplishments we take such pride in today will mean nothing in just a few years. We are here to impact the lives of others and make a difference through service to others.

In order to accomplish this we must completely surrender our desires to be better than any other person and put our energy and focus into being the person that God created us to be. Relentless discontent with the status quo, our own status quo, is the key to becoming the person that you were born to be…

Boldly free…

“Freedom lies in being bold.”

Robert Frost

It is amazing how much energy can be wasted on time spent worrying and doubting. It is equally amazing how clarifying and liberating it can be when a decision has been made and action is taken.

So, when in doubt make the decision. Take decisive action. Do the thing you know needs to be done. True freedom only follows action and boldness. If you make the wrong decision, you can always make another one.

You just might find that true freedom is simply the ability to make a choice.

Free to grow…

“Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better.”

Albert Camus

If you could choose to be better at one thing, just one thing, what would it be?

What is preventing you from doing it?

If you have the freedom to define your need for growth then you have the freedom to implement the actions that enable that growth. Embrace your freedom and choose to grow…

What’s the point?

“Every person that you meet knows something you don’t; learn from them.”

H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

It is amazing how much more you can gain from life if you live to learn. Equally amazing is how much more you can give as well…

What is the point of living if you already know everything?

Others before self…

“Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues.”

Confucius

Humility is the most fleeting of ambitions. The minute you decide you have it, you don’t. For me personally humility comes down to one thing. Others before self. In all things. In all ways.

Hard to do, harder to maintain. Worth it for everyone around you…

Nothing is lacking…

“Even if I lack the talent, I will not abandon the effort on that account. In short, we do not abandon any discipline for despair of ever being the best in it.”

Epictetus

Can you imagine how little would get done in this world if being “the best” were the requirement for doing something at all? I imagine that most of us don’t know what we are truly capable of until we try. And it is the trying that truly brings the joy.

I would far rather be less than the best at any one thing in this world yet pursue those things that bring me great joy and passion in life.

It is the intersection of passion and talent that creates joy and that joy, when aligned with the opportunity to make a real and lasting difference, is how you know you have landed on God’s calling for your life…

Body, mind or both?

“Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.”

John F. Kennedy

Are the best days those days where you exercise your mind, your body, or both? I know when one is lacking I am not as good at the other. Starting the day with fitness always makes everything else in the day a little better.

In 10 years?

“If, in 10 years, you were to look back at your actions of today, what would you change? Always be asking yourself in terms of your goals and how you want to live.”

Craig Ballantyne

What advice would you have given yourself 10 years ago based on where you are today? Are the certain actions or decisions you did, or didn’t make you know you should have made?

Do you have your 10 year goals written down and are you taking actions today that will move you down the right path?

The life we want is built each and every day. One must have a clear picture of their goals in their minds just waiting to be freed each and every day through the choices we make and the actions we take.

Where are you going to be in 10 years?

Relax and wait…

“Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.”

William S. Burroughs

Sometimes putting down a problem or challenge is the hardest thing in the world to do. Have you ever experienced those days when you can almost see the answer right there in front of you, but it is just beyond your grasp and all you want to do is grab it almost by sheer force of will?

For someone like me, with a strong and determined personality, it feels very counter-intuitive to let go and turn away from something that is right there in front of me demanding to be solved.

Invariably however, when I have the discipline to simply breathe and step away, the next step, or perhaps even the actual answer, will magically appear in my mind.

Cultivating the discipline required to step away and let the mind work is a practice that is still evolving for me. But I know that it works, and I know that it is important. So today I resolve to put down those big things that are actively burdening my mind at the cognitive level and just breathe and let my subconscious do the heavy lifting.

Relax and wait. Two things that are very hard for me to do…

Relentlessly focused…

“One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.”

Tony Robbins

What are the goals you have set for your life? Do you have them written down? Have you created an action plan with specific steps you are taking to make sure achievement isn’t accidental but is purposeful and intentional?

Or are your goals more like your dreams, somewhat half-remembered when you wake up in the morning and completely forgotten when you go to bed each night? Perhaps then your goals are more like the nightmares waking you in the middle of the night in a panic because you suddenly realize the year is half gone and you haven’t made any progress…

Life isn’t accidental. We were all put here for a purpose, and then given the opportunity to choose how we spend our time. If we choose to live in a dream like state, merely existing our way through our days, then we can have no regrets and blame no one else if we fail to become all that we are possible of being. It is a choice that we make each and every day when we decide if we are going to use our time purposefully or merely let it slip through our fingers.

As I reflect on the quote above I am reminded of the wisdom of Solomon which was recorded in the book of Proverbs. Specifically these words: ‘Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. ‘ Proverbs 4:25-26

Where is your gaze fixed today? Do you have a plan and are you focused on achieving it? Are you striving to master some skill or talent in order to reach or goals? Are you relentlessly focused?

Invest wisely…

“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.”

Peter F. Drucker

There are only so many hours in the day. How are you spending them?

I find it useful to think of time as a bank account. You spend your minutes and hours each day as you would your money. What kind of return are you getting for your spend? Do you look back at your days and weeks and wonder where the time went? Are you achieving the goals that you sent for the month the quarter or the year? Do you even have goals?

The bottom line is this. You only have a finite amount of time in each day and week, and none of us know when that time is going to run out. Spend it wisely and intentionally. Make sure that you are getting maximum return for your investment. If you aren’t, stop spending the time on the things that don’t matter and invest in the things that do…

Who are you?

“I have found that the greatest help in meeting any problem with decency and self-respect and whatever courage is demanded, is to know where you yourself stand. That is, to have in words what you believe and are acting from.”

William Faulkner

Do you have a written list of the things that you hold most dear? A list of principles or values that you use to guide your thoughts and actions? How long is your list? Is it a list of things that describe the person you want to be or the one that you actually are? I would suggest that if you list is longer than three things it is too long. You can’t be everything to everyone. Your values can’t be aspirational or only apply some of the time. It must be the deep bedrock of who you are as a person so that no matter what storm is going on around you, you have a very clear picture of what is really important.

If you don’t have this written down then carve out some time to think about it. Brainstorm a long list of all the principles that matter to you and then narrow it down so that you can have, in writing, that which truly matters. Look at it every day and ask yourself this question.

Am I living my life in a manner that reflects what I believe?

Endurance…

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

I recently read “The Shackleton Way” and was absolutely fascinated by the leadership skills and expertise that Sir Earnest Shackleton displayed during the epic “Endurance” expedition attempt to cross the Antarctic continent. It intrigued me so greatly that I then read “South” which is Shackleton’s book on the topic and am in the process of reading “Endurance” which is considered to be the seminal work on the subject.

I am continually amazed by the fact that in the face of the greatest of unknowns, and with no outside influence or support, that men could rise above the uncertainly of the next moment and survive for months at a time in the most grueling of conditions. The name of their ship, the “Endurance” was incredibly apt for what was to come.

Knowing that others have survived conditions that are far beyond contemporary understanding helps put everything in perspective. Having a positive attitude and focusing on what is truly important is how one perseveres. On the other side you will be far stronger than how you went in…

Feeling excited…

“I’m looking forward to the future, and feeling grateful for the past.”

Mike Rowe

The joy in the future is based on building on everything that has happened in the past and everything that is happening in the present.

Without an eye on the past and the lessons to be learned there is no future.

Never forget your past, just don’t live in it.

Never compromise your future by trying to be someone you are not.

All of these things, these principles, are what excites me about the future. it hasn’t been written yet. That is up to me.

#1 on the list…

“I decided in my life that I would do nothing that did not reflect positively on my father’s life.”

Sidney Poitier

My father is the hardest working and highest integrity person I have ever known. There are a lot of people I would not want to let down or fail in any way but #1 on that list would be my Dad. He’s an amazing man and an incredible Father. I just hope that I can pass on what he taught me to my children. That would be a life well lived.

Speak your truth…

“What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”

Oprah Winfrey

How much time do you spend really and deeply reflecting on your truth? Not the truth that others are waiting to hear or a perception of how facts should be but really truly understanding what you know and believe.

If you don’t know your truth how can you speak it?

Free from blame…

“When you blame others, you give up your power for growth and change.”

Dr. Robert Anthony

Taking full and complete ownership of your thoughts, your actions, and your circumstances is the first step to being able to truly grow. When you realize that you have the power to change your attitude and therefore the outlook you have on life you are full and truly free.

On the flip side, if you are constantly seek to make what you are or where you are in life someone else’s fault you are surrendering your ability to growth into the person you are capable of becoming.

Freedom is realizing that no one else can define you, you alone are embodied with that responsibility. Seize that opportunity own it!

Plan to disconnect…

“We need time to defuse, to contemplate. Just as in sleep our brains relax and give us dreams, so at some time in the day we need to disconnect, reconnect, and look around us.”

Laurie Colwin

There is nothing better than a quiet morning, a good cup of coffee, a great book, and a day ahead with no demands on your time. Unfortunately I can’t remember the last time I took the time to really embrace these very simple, but incredibly powerful things.

When was the last time you truly disconnected from the world and connected with the people that are really important to you? It is hard to do in today’s hyper-connected world and for me personally, it’s even harder in a Covid-19 flavored world.

The problem is that we can’t disconnect every once in a while and consider that to be enough. Just like sleep it has to be a regular part of your rejuvenation cycle. Unfortunately it is much easier said than done.

Like everything else in life, if it is important you have to plan for it and make the time. Do you feel this need? If so, how are you making changes to make it happen?

Love to give…

“Do something for those who have need of a man’s help – Something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it.”

Albert Schweitzer

What are the things you enjoy doing so much that you would do them for free? How many of these things add value and joy to others in addition to providing you with satisfaction?

How can you do more of these in your life? The intersection of giving to others and creating joy in yourself is our ultimate calling. It isn’t about making more money or having a nicer house. The true privilege in life is giving yourself away.

Change much?

“People in any organization are always attached to the obsolete … the things that once were productive and no longer are.”

Peter Drucker

Change can be really hard. In some ways it is so much better when it is forced upon you and there isn’t an option to remain the same.

The best part about forced change is that it frees you to truly grow and when you aren’t encumbered by the past you can embrace an entirely new future.

How can you develop an attitude of becoming intentionally obsolete?

A fugitive life…

“He is a true fugitive who flies from reason.”

Marcus Aurelius

What are those things that you know to be true, but that you don’t want, or can’t, admit to yourself? Why is that? Do you have a fear of something in particular? Is there a certain area where you have an unwillingness to face the truth?

When the facts and data are there, but you aren’t willing to face them, you are a creating a false world, a life that is less than it could or should be. You are a fugitive from the truth. That is no way to live…

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